Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Back at 2011

I started thinking about this post over a month ago, but am only now finding the time and brain power to finally pull all of my thoughts together.

2011 was an incredible year for my Art in so many ways.  In early March, I moved into an amazing studio space that I share with another wonderful artist.  This was a serious financial commitment, and I needed to really push myself to make it work financially.

Luck smiled upon me, and put one of my favorite portraits in front of a huge audience: Heather Armstrong shared a portrait I created of her daughter, Leta, on her blog, Dooce.  That exposure led to months of portrait commission work, steady income, and the ability to pay my rent all through the middle of this year.

By working on so many portrait commissions in a few months time, I really saw my technique improve and my style become more confident.  I am excited about where my next round of commissions will take me and my work.

The opportunity also arrived for me to pay back Heather's kindness by creating a series of paintings to benefit a Charity close to her heart, Every Mother Counts.  Those five paintings are among my favorite of the year.  I really put my heart and soul into those paintings, and found myself painting for hours at a time, completely absorbed in their creation.  From start to finish, that project fed my soul.

2011 saw the creation of over a hundred new paintings and drawings, through my portrait commissions, figure drawing sessions, and other paintings.  I won my first Grand Prize in a Juried Show.  I am heading into 2012 with numerous ideas.  I also have a new sense of commitment to keeping the studio - which not only helps me be a better artist by providing the space I need to really flesh out my ideas, but brings together so many of my fellow artists for our weekly drawing sessions and other events.  Being part of a supportive, creative, and dedicated group of artists is a vital part of staying motivated as an artist.  I am honored that the studio space can keep this group together.

Of course, the Art was not all that happened over the last year.  I was lucky to experience some beautiful moments with my family in 2011...and even some not so beautiful moments, but ones that changed me.  

Sometimes family members spill it - say how they really feel about you, and you have to sit back and think about what they have said, and decide: Is That Me? Am I really that person?  And if you find that their views, opinions, and judgements hurt you more that help you, then you need to question how much you need that person in your life.  If all they do is make you feel small and unwelcome, then it's time to just step away.  Your positive energy needs to go towards what's important to you and your mental well-being.  I made that decision early in 2011, to not let that person poison my life as much as they have in the past, and I think it was a good decission.

I found out a lot about myself in 2011.  I am willing to see, and accept, that I need to create - I need to paint - I need to be in my studio.  It is not a hobby or a whim, it is Who I Am.  I by accepting this, I no longer feel guilty or have the overwhelming need to justify time in the studio.  I am dedicated to my children - and do everything I can to help them become all they can be.  But I am not willing to sacrifice Who I Am in the process.   And truthfully...I am a better mother when I am a balanced woman.

Of all the moments I have swirling around in my head, there is one very special one that keeps coming back to me.  To most people it may seem silly, but I get tears in my eyes every time I think about it, and so I feel it is my most important moment of 2011, and I need to write it down, so that someday, this person will read it and know just how much it meant to me.

You may know that I have had a rough time with my son, Jack.  He is an amazing little boy - smart, funny, sweet.  But he can also be a handful.  He has had disclipline problems in school since he started going two days a week at 18 months.  He does not respond to rewards, charts, punishments, routine, and all of the usual methods that every one of his teachers have recommended over the last 5 years.  I have tried getting him involved in sports, tae kwan do, dance, gymnastics...any class that could channel his strengths.  In every class, every sports game, I sat tense and anxious, knowing his tantrum would erupt at any minute.  No other child acted as bad as Jack.

Not a day would go by where he didn't cause trouble in his pre-k class, then his kindergarten class, and into his first grade class.  It was taking a toll on me as a Mother.  I was doing everything I could possibly think of to be "The Good Mom" - he had healthy foods, a full night's sleep, discipline, responsibility, he wasn't spoiled, had limited TV, lots of child-directed toys (legos, play doh

His Dad was right there with me - fielding the daily phone calls from the principals when I had reached my limit, talking to Jack until his throat was parched, getting Jack involved in special outings just for the two of them as rewards for good behavior.

As this went on, I found myself resenting the situation more and more.   I had exhausted every thing I could think of, including scratch making his lunch to ensure he was getting the right amount of nutrients and no junk to throw off the balance of his little body during the day at school.  I thought that Jack and I would constantly be at odds.  We lived in the same house, and of course we loved each other, but all signs of affection were nearly non-existent.

Then, one day as I was getting him ready for school, I was bracing myself for the usual morning argument about me wanting to brush the Brillo pad out of his hair before he went to school.  He acted like I was sticking him with a white hot poker every day.  

Except...on this day...he walked over to me, put his arms around my waist, and rested his head against my chest while I brushed out his hair.  

He was hugging me.

I could hardly believe it.  I realized that we hadn't done that in months.  I was so wrapped up in trying to be The Mom That Straightened This Kid Out, that Jack and I had become enemies.  When he hugged me, and hung on for those few moments, it was a total turning point for us.  Ever since, he has allowed me to kiss him on the cheek whenever I want, we hug, we kid, we joke.  I want to hug him all the time.

He still has issues in school, and there are moments that I just want to cry from frustration, but then I remember that Hug, and how it made me crumble...Jack Hugged Me.  

So that's my top moment from 2011.  My son, and a hug.  I hope he will always know that no matter how much we are at odds, I can always use a hug.

And just to make sure we end on an amusing note...this is what happened when Jack tried to climb over the fence instead of open the gate.  His shoes got stuck and he took a header into the grass and dirt.  Now, I'm a GOOD MOTHER - I made sure there was no broken bones or need for stitches before I burst out laughing and took a picture of his shoes stuck in the fence.  Love you, Jack :)


Tina said...

Kristina, your post makes me want to stand up and applaud! What a powerful year of growth and change you have had. Thank you for sharing the story of Jack's Hug; definitely a "melting" moment! Congratulations on all of it!

John Fleck said...

Thank you for sharing the story regarding your son.
I found it touching as I find your art inspiring.

All the best in 2012!


Unknown said...

Great story :), nice to read about your year in review. Also really portrait work!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely candid look at life with your son. I am so choked up and it's kinda hard to see anything, but I can still type. What a gift you are to him and he is to you.
peace n abundance,

Kim VanDerHoek said...

My eyes are blurry and right now I am reaching for a tissue. What a beautiful blog post about being an artist and mother! It's such a difficult balance between maintaining your passion, your sense of self while doing your best to raise kind, responsible and well-rounded kids.

We have a lot in common and I understand a bit of what you've been through with your son.

I wish you all the best for 2012 and I look forward to seeing your beautiful artwork for another year!

Krystyna81 said...

Such lovely comments...thank you so much :) Jack is worth every struggle, I assure you. He has shown so much growth this year as well, and I feel so blessed that I can be an Artist and his Mom.

You are all so wonderful, thank you!